Event agency leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about the outlook for 2021 as corporate confidence in holding live events remains low.
Our latest agency leaders’ session, chaired by Top Banana Founder and CEO Richard Bridge, saw heads of agencies large and small including CWT M&E, BCD M&E, Smyle, Cheerful Twentyfirst, Powwow Events and Seven Events, discuss the ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While some were cautiously optimistic, and even positive that business will rebound in 2021, others are worried by the continued uncertainty, travel confusion and the threat of a second wave, with concern for live events planned as far ahead as June 2021 and for the industry as a whole.
Here’s a few of the key takeaways…
* Industry collaboration was hailed as one of the biggest positives of the pandemic. “Collaboration across the industry has been fantastic. I like the way we have come together as an industry and think that has been a real positive out of all of this,” said CWT’s Ian Cummings. Top Banana’s Bridge added: “I have never before spoken to so many competitors. It’s a lonely place being a leader, so having support and sharing with other leaders as we have on these micebook calls and other initiatives has been great.”
* Agencies that already offered digital solutions or have pivoted to virtual as a result of the pandemic are busy and seeing lots of business coming in. Several agency heads agreed that while this is positive and the margins on virtual events are great, the revenues are not as good as live.
* Enquiries for live events are still happening and have picked up a little, and some agencies are seeing an increase in client RFPs. While this is good in some ways, it’s challenging being able to respond to these with smaller teams.
* Many agency heads said they have also had to have difficult conversations with clients with regard to terms and conditions, in particular payment terms with big corporate companies trying to push out their payment terms. One agency has received RFPs stating 120 days payment terms or don’t respond, plus clients who had a 45-day standard are now pushing that back to 60. The other area is deposit payments, with some clients expecting agencies to cover those. The current climate is providing the ideal opportunity for agencies to take a tougher stance on terms and conditions. “We have to be really tight with all our processes and I think we can blame Covid – if we need an excuse that’s a good one,” said one agency head.
* While agency leaders praised their teams for how those still working have managed under these challenging conditions and remained productive at home – there is an eagerness to get staff back into offices over the next couple of months, particularly creative teams. Some agencies asking teams to come back at least one or two days a week from September and in general are finding that people are ready and willing to come back.
* Team skillsets could also be a challenge over the next 12 to 24 months. There is less need for live events and logistics skills and more need for digital and technology skills while the focus remains on virtual and moves to hybrid. Job titles and the structure of agency teams over the next year are going to look very different to how they looked six months ago – retraining and refocusing teams is both a concern and a challenge for some agencies.
If you are a MD/Owner or Senior Agency Leader and wish to join the group then please email [email protected]